Class of 1961 Spring 2015 Letter

Spring 2015

Greetings, Classmates,

Recently I was re-reading Psalm 51, especially the verse Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” Following the disastrous way King David had treated Bathsheba and prompted by Nathan pointing out his sins, David sought repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God. In this Psalm, David wants God to erase his sins, purify his soul, and keep him from temptation by keeping the Holy Spirit near.

I was reflecting on how we make resolutions every new year. Usually, they include physical improvements: exercise more, lose weight, or eat less carbs. But what about our holy resolutions: those pledges for spiritual improvement? Wouldn’t Psalm 51:10 provide a great foundation for a holy resolution? I hadn’t thought about making a NewYear’s spiritual resolution before, yet it seems obvious now. As children, do you remember your parents saying “Goodnight, and don’t forget to say your prayers”?  Our holy resolution could be that simple: saying prayers every night. The year is still early, so why not think up a holy resolution for yourself.

I don’t have a major theme for this letter but want to share a few interesting tidbits.

*Pitch Perfect

*100-Year-Old Class Agent

*Brain Games: To play or not to play


In a recent interview, J. Craig Venter, CEO of Human Longevity Inc. was asked, “What is life?” This was his response: “The short answer is life is a DNA software-driven system, at least on this planet, as far as we know. Every species is driven by their DNA software, totally and completely.” His company has a praiseworthy goal to sequence one million genomes by 2020, to have a database that can find correlations between disease and genetic make-up. Venter’s work is fascinating, since my background in social work definitely looked at the nature versus nurture effects on people. Generally, we leaned heavily towards the nurture side, believing there could be positive changes made from our best practices.

Later in the article, Mr. Venter talked about measuring faces to predict how our faces would age by using our genetic code. He also measured voices. Here’s the punch line: Perfect pitch is genetic. It’s 100 percent genetic! I no longer need to feel bad that I wasn’t “good” enough for Nordic Choir. For all of us wannabe choir members, there is no further shame. Perfect pitch is all about the genes! I did sing in the 500-member Messiah Choir (next to a really good alto) for four years and loved every minute of it!


Edward Gerson, a 100-year-old retired button manufacturer, started his class agent duties when he was 87 years old. His job was to provide the news on the Dartmouth class of 1935. When he began writing there were 150 alumni. Today there are only three. A few years ago he wrote, “Hang in there or soon I won’t have anybody to write about!” In this Wall Street Journal article, John R.Thelin, an expert in higher education history, said that class notes for college alumni magazines have been around since the 1910s. At Luther, the first issue of Luther Alumni Magazine was published in the winter of 1964. President Farwell was on the cover.

Mr. Gerson is a dedicated “class notes” author, now penning monthly news covering a wide range of topics (sound familiar). A year ago in April, at 99 years old, he wrote about his own wedding.  A new groom and still a writer at 100.  Amazing.  Remember in the last letter when I wrote how common it will become to be 100?  Just saying.  A footnote:  I hope many of us will be around in 25 years to see who the class of 1961’s 100-year-old class agent will be!


To play or not to play brain games is the question. Do they work or not is the debate. Advertisements for websites, such as Lumosity, abound  for our age group. They promise to increase our memory and attention abilities by creating new brain cells as a result of playing various brain games. Neuroscientists have given us hope for improvement in mental decline as we age.  Until recently, the prevailing view of the brain was that creating new brain cells was not possible.

Now 60 million subscribers in 180 countries play the brain games on Lumosity, not counting all of the other available websites. This company predicts that by 2020 their sales will total 6 billion!

The debate continues with another major question not yet resolved: Do the cognitive improvements in the brain games transfer to daily tasks such as driving, dealing with finances, or remembering things? As the researchers put it, do increased performance levels in the games transfer to improvement in untrained tasks or are you just getting more skilled at the games you play?

A study called ACTIVE (Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly) tested 2,800 participants on whether brain training improved perceptual and cognitive abilities. Each was randomly assigned to one of four groups: memory, reasoning, speed-of–processing, and control. Participants maintained the improvements from their training group ten years later. However, no transfer of training was noted until five years later. Then testing revealed the reasoning group reporting fewer daily living problems and the speed-of-processing group reported less of a decline in health-related quality of life. Researchers related this late result to a certain amount of mental decline occurring before transfer effects were revealed (Reference

Dr. Norman Doidge has written a book called “The Brain’s Way of Healing.” He believes we need to “use it or lose it,” which reflects the research concluding that physical and mental exercise is not a waste of time. Today medicine and neuroscience propose the view that the brain is “neuroplastic,” meaning it is constantly changing depending on what we do. He states that 15 percent of people over 70 have some form of dementia, where the brain loses its plasticity.

However, new research has found both physical and mental exercise can lower the risk of experiencing dementia. A study of 2,235 men followed for 30 years found that the risk of mental decline and dementia was reduced 60 percent by a lifestyle consistently including healthy eating, normal weight, body mass index of 18-25, daily glass of alcohol, and no smoking. The activity with the biggest impact on risk was a vigorous exercise each day, such as walking two miles, biking ten miles, etc.

Although neuroscience research is in the beginning stages, there appear to be glimmers of hope that “what we do” can impact our brain health. At the very least, brain games can’t hurt. If we enjoy playing them, we can always hope they will lessen mental decline. And if that doesn’t happen, it is an inexpensive form of entertainment, even if we still can’t find our keys!

I hope this letter finds all of you experiencing healthy bodies and healthy brains! Congratulations to Tom Haugen for his great honor recently. See below.

Blessings to all of you,

Karin (Wolding) Abel
1961 Class Agent
[email protected]

Class Note

TOM HAUGEN of Decorah received the National Federation of State High School Association’s Outstanding Music Educator Award for the State of Iowa at the Iowa All-State Concert in Ames, in November 2014. 


BARBARA BAKER of Decorah died Oct. 16, 2014, at age 75. Raised on a farm five miles west of Decorah, she graduated from Decorah High School with the class of 1957 and attended Luther, receiving a certificate in education. Barbara began her teaching career in Jesup. She married Arlen Dale Johnson on June 25, 1960, at First Lutheran Church, and they became the parents of two children, Lisa and Stephen. After their marriage, Arlen and Barbara moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, where she taught school. Barbara also taught in California and Colorado. During the summers, Barbara came back to Decorah with her children and stayed at the family farm with her parents. She took classes at Luther and received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1977. Barbara retired from teaching and moved back to Decorah in 2000 and substitute taught in the Decorah schools; she especially enjoyed working with special-needs students. Barbara liked to travel and visit her friends; she was very active in helping to raise her grandchildren; she loved to read and was a book club member; and she was very fond of farm life and horses. Barbara is survived by her daughter, Lisa (Tim) Haggas; son, Stephen (Jodi) Johnson; two grandchildren; two sisters, SUSAN (BAKER) MICKLICK ’65 and Alice (Richard) Vieyra; two nieces; a nephew; and many cousins. She was preceded in death by her parents.

HELEN M. LARSON of Wausau, Wis., and Decorah died Aug. 31, 2014, at age 74. After graduating in 1957 from Decorah High School, where she served as news editor of the student newspaper, The Dynamo, she enrolled at Luther and majored in English and Latin. After graduation, Helen taught Latin at Wisconsin Rapids High School. She received a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in 1969 and began serving as a health occupations counselor at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, guiding students through their educational journeys. Helen retired in 2003 but continued to stay active with friends and family. She was an avid reader and enjoyed collecting autographed books, and she loved to travel, play games, golf, bowl, and sing. Helen actively followed her favorite teams, the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers. She was a fixture at Camp Randall Stadium for home games (and many bowl games), and she enjoyed tailgating behind Budget Bicycle on Regent Street with her Badger football gang. Helen is survived by godchildren, cousins, and many dear friends.

STEVEN H. PETERSON of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., died Sept. 13, 2014, at age 75. Born in Viroqua, he graduated from Viroqua High School in 1957 before enrolling at Luther, where he majored in history and played basketball. Steve furthered his studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, receiving a master's degree in history in 1971. He married CATHY (BENNINGER) PETERSON ’64 on June 3, 1961, in Lena, Ill. Steve taught at Lincoln High School for 31 years, serving as student council advisor for 25 years and on the NASC's executive board from 1984-1987. He received the Warren E. Shull Advisor of the Year Award in 1989. Serving as a golf coach for more than 40 years at Lincoln High School, Steve earned many Valley Conference titles and regional and sectional titles, and he coached seven state-qualifying teams, 11 state players, and a state medalist. On June 24, 2014, he was inducted into the Wisconsin Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Steve was also employed by Bull's Eye Country Club for 48 years. He is survived by his wife, Cathy; son, Eric (Amy) Peterson; daughter, AMY PETERSON-BOHN ’83 (Roger); five grandchildren; and one sister, Signe Peterson. Steve was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Jerome, and sister, Ann; and father- and mother-in-law.

Your gift. Every year. Put to work, right away, where it is needed most. 

Each year over 9,000 alumni, parents, and friends support the Annual Fund with gifts from $5 to $75,000. Strong support from alumni helps Luther secure additional funds from foundations and corporations, and your gift each year helps us reach our goal of 27% alumni giving.  Here’s how your class—and surrounding classes—did in 2014:

Class of 1960 total giving in 2014:  $71.553 from 44.95% of the class

Class of 1961 total giving in 2014:  $113,347 from 51.43% of the class

Class of 1962 total giving in 2014:  $63,555 from 51.64% of the class

Your gift can boost the impact your class has on current students! Please use the enclosed envelope or visit to show your support. Thank you!


This list includes all gifts received January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2014. Making a gift each and every year is an investment in the lives of Luther students and a show of support for the Luther College community. Thank you for your support of Luther College through your giving. Names in bold recognize donors who gave in 2014 and have made gifts in 25 or more cumulative years. We are grateful for this loyal and generous support.

  • Anonymous
  • Irvin Aal
  • Karin (Wolding) Abel
  • Robert Anderson
  • Bill Bailey
  • Vern Barlow
  • Sandra (Sundberg) Bergman  
  • Maryellen (Amundson) Boe
  • Dagny (Hexom) Boebel
  • Carol Borson
  • John Bostrom
  • John Braaten
  • R. Eric Carlson
  • Shirley (Udstuen) Carpenter
  • Ronald Christian 
  • Marilyn (Branstad) Cornell 
  • Audrey (Bielenberg) Costello
  • Laurene (Olson) Davidson
  • Leilani (Hovden) De Muth 
  • Gregory Dotseth 
  • Sandra (Swenson) Eliason 
  • Phyllis Engebretson
  • Marilyn (Ulven) Erdahl
  • Audrey (Pederson) Erdman 
  • Daryl Erdman 
  • Jerry Erickson 
  • Karen (Kiland) Erlander 
  • Barbara (Sanden) Fett
  • Shirley (Lilleskov) Fjoslien
  • Paul Forde 
  • Thomas Foster
  • Ronald Fretheim
  • DeLyle Fure
  • Robert Gerber 
  • James Gesme 
  • Berner Gorden
  • Naomi (Borreson) Hanson 
  • Greggory Harmon
  • Dianne (Foss) Hartzell 
  • Rodney Hatle 
  • Garnet (Johnson) Haugen
  • Thomas Haugen 
  • Joan (Torvick) Hayashida 
  • Jane (Hurd) Helgeson       
  • Ronald Hested       
  • Gloria (Kach) Hove       
  • Howard Jacobson       
  • Andrea (Bakken) James       
  • Carol (Rasmussen) James       
  • Frances (Womeldorf) Jeffers       
  • Charles Johnson       
  • Karen (Gulsvig) Johnson       
  • Shirley (Stark) Jorde       
  • Wayne Kivell       
  • Judith (Hestenes) Knutson       
  • Bonna (Anderson) Krafts       
  • James Kroneman       
  • June (Olson) Krull-Bonderman
  • Karen (Mostrom) Larson       
  • O. Dale Larson       
  • Geraldine (Freeman) Lee
  • Nancy (Rovang) Lee       
  • Ronald Lee       
  • Dagny Lund       
  • Karin (Knutsen) Lyon       
  • William Lyon       
  • John Mathre       
  • Janet (Amundson) Moen       
  • Loren Moen       
  • Dale Mundt       
  • Barbara (Kumm) Nelson       
  • Judith (Haugen) Nelson      
  • Richard Nelson       
  • Helen (Seffrood) Nenneman       
  • Kay (Thomas) Nodolf       
  • Alan Nordhem       
  • LaMay (Sexe) Nybroten       
  • Elaine (Redalen) Olson       
  • Gary Olson       
  • Janice (Gulbranson) Olson       
  • Rosaaen (Skifton) Olson       
  • Gene Olstad       
  • Anita (Haugen) Omodt       
  • Norman Omodt       
  • Glen Orr       
  • Roger Osmundson       
  • Marjorie (Myrah) Parkos       
  • Jonathan Preus       
  • Douglas Reasa       
  • Linda (Lee) Rice       
  • James Ringlien       
  • Audrey (Wogen) Rober       
  • Deanna (Blunt) Roen       
  • Robert Rosedahl       
  • Ann (Knutson) Rotto       
  • Alma Rotto-Morgan       
  • Richard Rud       
  • Frederick Schneider       
  • Daniel Seidelmann       
  • Barbara (Coupanger) Servatka       
  • Richard Simmering       
  • Janet Skaar       
  • David Smedstad       
  • Cynthia (Vasey) Smith       
  • Paul Solberg 
  • LaVonne (Leng) Solomonson       
  • Lynn Steen       
  • Judith (Aandahl) Stelzig       
  • Allan Stoa       
  • Nancy (Skinner) Stoa       
  • Ronald Sundberg       
  • Gene Svebakken 
  • David Swenson       
  • Anita (Buss) Turck       
  • Dean Vigeland       
  • Robert Von Haden       
  • Jane (Baker) Wallestad       
  • Darlene (Johnson) Wheeler       
  • Carolyn (Forde) White       
  • Kayla (Pederson) Wieme       
  • Anita (Thurin) Wildermuth       
  • Barbara (Gumz) Willis       
  • Jon Wogen       
  • Darlene (Peters) Wold       
  • David Wold       
  • Norbert Wurtzel       

Every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of this list.  If an error has been made, please accept our apology and contact the Luther Development Office at 800-225-8664, or email [email protected].